Sometimes SEO’s sit down and start talking technical, going right over the top of their client’s head, never explaining the full reason for why they are doing what they are doing. Talking about 301 redirects is one of those topics that is easy to get carried away on the technical side of things. In all honesty, there is nothing fancy or pretty about them. It is not design related, there are no shiny objects, but it is an often overlooked item when you work with just a web designer or a non-seo savvy individual who is ‘just building you a new website.’
First, let’s start off by defining what a redirect is for those who might not know, and clarify the difference between 301 and 302 redirects, when and where to use them.
What is a redirect?
Simply put, redirects are used in cases where your website content has moved from one place to another. Sort of like a detour or when your GPS unit spouts off something about ‘recalculating.’
Why in the world would I want to use a redirect?
Many times redirects come into play when you’re launching a new website or are dealing with broken (dead) links and the URL structure changes. This is a good practice from both the user and search engine standpoint. If you move content or restructure your site, you need to tell users and search engines where to look. Breaking it down to the two different perspectives should assist you in better understanding the methodology.
Let’s say as a user I frequent your site and perhaps from time-to-time I even bookmark a couple of your pages. Then in 2-months you decide to rework your site, throwing the URL structure completely out the window. As the user, I’ll go to my handy bookmarks to reference a couple of my favorite links to only be delivered to a Page Not Found 404 Error. This is much like slamming your door closed in my face, telling me to go elsewhere. Not what you want, right?
Search Engine Perspective:
Similar to the user’s perspective, a search engine remembers specific URLs as they’re relevant to specific topics of interest, keyword phrases, etc. Much like a human, search engines dislike having the door shut in their face as well. Stopping a search engine dead in its tracks isn’t exactly the ideal situation. Instead, you want to provide the search engine with a path to travel down to preserve any of the historical data (link juice) that resides within the search. Imagine the negative impact it will have on your site if you have 500 links to http://mydomain.com and then transfer everything to http://mysnazzynewdomain.com and never properly redirect the traffic. Not exactly a good thing.
What’s the difference between a 301 and 302 redirect?
301 redirects are also known as ‘301 moved permanently.’ This code informs a search engine (or browser) that the content or link they are looking for has moved permanently to another location. Permanently is the keyword here, when you use a 301, it’s never intended to bring the content back to the original locale. The link juice will be passed along to the new page.
302 redirects are also known as ‘302 moved temporarily.’ This code then informs a search engine (or browser) that the content or link they are looking for has moved temporarily to another location. Temporarily is the keyword here, and the intention of a 302 redirect is to never make that change permanent. None of the link juice will be passed along to the new page.
Now that we have armed you with a little bit of information and you are feeling more educated (hopefully), be sure to broach the subject of proper redirects the next time you go through a website redesign. If you get the feeling that your web designer is not understanding how to setup proper redirects, consider consulting with an SEO professional before proceeding. Contact us to start those discussions.